Tonight begins the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Like so many Jewish holidays, it is an inconvenient fit for liberal clergy and parishioners who insist that Jewish values consist of social justice.
Instead he and his fellow conspirators must die.
Purim is a reminder that real Jewish values are not a suicide pact or a soppy tale of moral ambiguity and bleeding heart empathy for genocidal monsters.
Jewish holidays mark historical events by
testifying to a G-d of history who is less concerned with feelings and
tolerance, than with justice and truth.
Mordechai, like most Jewish Biblical figures, makes for a terrible progressive role model. He doesn't compromise. Even after Haman has passed his decree, he still won't bow to him. He causes the crisis and resolves it by being uncompromising.
Purim began when he refused to bow to
the Grand Vizier of a multicultural empire. Jewish leaders hurriedly reassured him that this fanatic was in no way representative of their
values. Hadn't they attended the feast
where the sacred vessels of their own people were used to serve spirits to the mob? Rather than anticipating the return to their land
at the end of the prophesied period of exile, they had cheered
the brutish tyrant and made Sushan, his capital, into their new holy
The illusion of
history is that every age brings with it the end of history, a new age
whose awesome achievements break with the past and usher in a boundless
future. And then the walls come crashing down and the new era of history
ends up buried under the rubble of time.
History never ends. That is the lesson of the Holocaust, of Purim and of
countless other horrifying intrusions of the old into the new. The
shining new era that begins with grand public spectacles and displays of
the power and might of an empire, ends with corpses and men and women
fighting and running for their lives.
The Jewish people, break down into Jews and New Age Jews.
The Jews wandered a meandering course through history using
ancient maps and concerning themselves with a past that modern people
dismissed as myth and legend. The New Age Jews saw a new era of history that made all those old moldy beliefs completely
irrelevant. History had ended and a new age had begun. How could they be expected to take a few fairy tales retold by
barbarians seriously? Such things weren't for enlightened people who
were witnessing the end of history.
The old Jews know what the New Age Jews do not, that history has not
ended, that the past is still with us and that it has sharp teeth. They
know that Man has not changed, that his sophistication is still only a
shell and that sooner or later the shell cracks. If it does not crack
from within, then it is cracked from without. While the New Age Jews
sneer at the Holocaust obsession, Jews know that the past in all its
awful terrors is a map and that forgetting it carries a terrible price.
Those who feel time in their bones know the patterns of history and can never lose themselves in one age or fall
into the fallacy of a new era. They know that there is nothing new under
the sun. Machines may come and go, but the world is a broken place
because the hearts of men have not turned from their ways. And so they
remember that every age carries within it the seeds of its ruin. They
witness the ruin, climb out of the rubble and move on.
Liberal pieties embrace the new age, fixate on a final transformative
era of history at the hands of messiahs who promise to make the world into a better place.
Clergy who preach the cant of Tikkun Olam cannot meaningfully cope with that history. Their tattered scraps of philosophy that they mistake for a religion
has no room in it for the
bloody-minded men who stride through history without saving the whales.
Purim, a holiday preceded by a fast kept by the men going into battle
and their loved ones, is not about progressive. It is about survival. Not mere
survival, but the skin of the teeth sense of how close we came, that
moment of revelation which pulls back the curtains of the material world
and reminds us of the impossibility of our survival under all the
ordinary rules of the world that new ages are founded on. It reminds us
that behind the brick and mortar of the material world is a force that breaks apart history, that saves us when we should have died, that has entrusted us
with a mission. It reminds us of what the world is and reminds us of
Itself and of what we are.
you stand on the edge of death, life is a revelation. It is not our
deaths under the Egyptian sun, the blades and bullets of a thousand
empires and kingdoms, or the ovens of Dachau that we are obsessed with.
It is that moment of survival. The revelation that even amid the horrors
of all that we have witnessed and the terrible things that we had to do
to survive, we have risen out of the ground, watched the flesh cover
our bones and stood alive again upon the earth. Every time we survive,
we are reminded of the fragility of the material world and of our enemies who
wielding every power and trick, have failed to destroy us. Each time we
rise, we transcend the world, in confronting our dead, we confront our
It is not a purely joyous experience. The day of Purim is preceded by a
day of fasting. Before the celebration comes a day of battle as the
struggle to survive, the long decline into the abyss, the final
desperate hours, suddenly give way to the upheaval of an impossible
salvation. We remember the pain, the sense of the grave closing over us,
the bodies lying everywhere, the certainty that we will be next.
accept the hopelessness of our situation and then we walk out of the
grave and praising G-d, sit down to the feast.
This is Jewish history. It is an alien one to the New Age Jew who clings
tightly to the new era and its rules, to its pieties and its mores, who
scowls at the old ones for refusing to come and join the imperial
festivities where the vessels of the temple are used to serve drinks and
the mob toasts that the seventy years have come and gone, and still there is
no chance of the Jews returning to their Jerusalem and reclaiming the
"The past is the past," says the New Age Jew. "The past is
the present is the future," says the Jew.
The feast of the New Age is the celebration of the end of history, a
golden time with an unlimited bounty for all, where the wine
and the free health care will never run out, where everyone will live
together under one government in perfect brotherhood for all time. Many
Jews are drawn to this feast, its golden vessels, its vast bounty and
its glorious ideals. But then the Grand Vizier begins to speak and some of them grow uneasy for though he speaks soothing
words, they sense that he is a monster.
They don't always know how they know it, but the nagging feeling creeps into them that there is something
rotten at the heart of this new age.
Most of them still bow to him, touching their heads to the floor, some
even celebrate his vision. They assure others that he is
our friend, the only man who can realize the promise of this age, a
wise and noble leader whose vision of change brings new hope. But one or
two stay away from the feast and refuse to bow to him. Instead they
look to Jerusalem, to where the battle between good and evil was once
fought, and where it will be fought again. They know him for what he is.
The Grand Vizier knows that he must destroy them, must destroy them all,
because they have seen through what he is, and through
the shallow trappings of the golden age of fools. They know that there
is more to the world than the might of men and the cornucopias of kings.
They know that he is not all-powerful and when he looks at them, a
scowl wrinkles his face, because now he knows it too.
And then the Grand Vizier ends up dangling from a rope, the tanks break
through to Berlin, the chariots fall into the sea, the mustachioed
dictator dies in a bedroom outside Moscow his clothes soaked in his own
urine-- and everything has gone completely wrong.
It's an old story and a new story. We tell it over and over again
because it is always happening. It is our story and the story of the
world. It is the story we have accepted from our parents and it is the
story that we will pass on to our children. It is the story of the blood
sacrifice of the New Age that goes wrong. The sacrifice survives,
bloodied and scarred, while the New Age goes down to ruin.
Once again we are the sacrifice to be slaughtered on the altar of peace with the Muslim world, of an age of global
government and the brotherhood of man for which only a few million people need to die. The knife is
sharpened, the Grand Vizier and his aides smile, and the time is almost
here. But it is not here yet. Now we sit down to hear the Megillah and
remember how the story always ends.